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Images: the Twelve Apostles rock formation in Capetown, South Africa
The Twelve Apostles rock formation in Cape Town, South Africa, rises majestically from the powdery beach, a popular port for cruise ships. Photograph by Steve McCurry/NGS Image Collection

Eight Exceptional Cruises to Africa

In TRAVELER magazine’s September issue, our team of Africa writers engage in six captivating trips—camping in the Sahara, rafting the Zambezi, exploring ape country in Uganda . . . and more. Online we offer our biggest ever Web-exclusive feature, the “Africa Travel Package,” which includes an 18-page trip planner, details on the best wine routes in South Africa, tips from National Geographic photographers, and TravelWise links guides. Here, we offer the best cruises to Africa.

Africa’s coastal cities don’t entice cruisers the way exotic locales like Santorini in the Greek Isles do. The old stereotype that Africa is an impoverished, disease-riddled continent unsafe to foreign tourists lingers. More and more cruise operators, however, are catering to an increased demand for cruises to Africa. “People are acknowledging that Africa is a once in a lifetime destination, and a cruise enables them to see the continent safely and affordably,” says Brad Ball, Renaissance Cruises spokesperson. Renaissance, which has cruised to Africa for the last five years, added another ship to its Africa-bound fleet this year, because consumer interest for Renaissance’s Africa itineraries has doubled.

Renaissance isn’t alone. According to the Cruise Line International Association, 50 international cruise ships that market to North American audiences are planning stops in Africa this year, compared to the 38 ships that stopped there in 1999. How to choose the right cruise? We consult the experts—Douglas Ward, author of the Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships (Berlitz Travel Guide 2001); Anne Campbell, editor of online magazine Cruise Mates; and Pamela Kane, author of Cruise Control (Panda Press 1999)—to give you the latest scoop. Book now—all ships recommended by our experts still have slots available.

Prepare to be pampered with complimentary caviar, bottomless glasses of champagne, and hot lava rock massages at the Mandara Spa, aboard the Silver Wind, by Silversea Cruises. The yacht-like vessel glides from Mombasa, Kenya, to its first port of call, Zanzibar, this November. During your 16-day journey, you’ll explore Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion Island, Durban, Richards Bay, and Cape Town and watch as the raw beauty of southern Africa’s coastal areas unfolds. Don’t miss your chance to interact with the Xhosa culture of East London, South Africa. During this festive afternoon, planned by the crew, Xhosa women and children perform traditional songs and dances and you’ll taste authentic local snacks and cakes. Vitals: Prices range from $11,595 to $24,795 U.S., including airfare from North America, taxes, and tips; guided tours not included; 296 passengers; 800 722 9955 (U.S. and Canada).

Renaissance VII and Renaissance VIII by Renaissance Cruises offer 16-day air, land, and cruise packages to Kenya, the Seychelles, and Egypt starting this November. An eight-day cruise around the Seychelles with stops in Mahé, Praslin, La Digue, Curieuse, and Desroches, is sandwiched between a five-day stay in Kenya and two nights in Egypt. Though not positioned as a budget cruise line, our experts assert that Renaissance offers some of the most economical cruises today. Vitals: Prices range from $4,499 to $7,799 U.S., including airfare, hotel accommodations, a guided Kenyan safari, and taxes; guided tours and tips not included; 114 passengers; 877 549 1124 (U.S. and Canada).

Embark on a fall Roman Holiday before cruising to Africa’s eastern coast aboard the six-star Crystal Symphony by Crystal Cruises. The 24-day itinerary begins with a departure from Rome this October and leads you to Cape Town, with stops in Alexandria, Safaga, Jiddah, Mombasa, Zanzibar, and Durban. During your journey, you’ll savor uninterrupted sunbathing, in between tennis games, musical performances, and dance lessons. Vitals: Prices range from $8,445 to $35,880 U.S.; guided tours, airfare, taxes, and tips not included; 940 passengers; +1 310 785 9300 or 800 820 6663 (U.S. and Canada).

You’ll sip chilled glasses of champagne on the upper deck of the Silver Wind by Silversea Cruises as you’re whisked from Cape Town, South Africa, to Athens, Greece, during a 32-day excursion. The yacht-like ship—described by Campbell as the most luxurious of all for its extravagant amenities, such as Bvlgari soaps, Schott-Zwiesel crystal, Cristofle silverware, and Frette bed linens—departs from Cape Town next February. While en route to Athens, you’ll visit ports of call in Durban, Richards Bay, Pointe des Galets, Port Louis, Nosy Be/Nosy Komba, Zanzibar, and more. Along the way, you’ll take a break from cruising to explore the Temples of Luxor and Queen Hatshepsut and the Valley of the Kings with an expert guide. Vitals: Prices range from $21,395 to $48,695 U.S, including airfare from North America, taxes, and tips; guided tours not included; 296 passengers; 800 722 9955 (U.S. and Canada).

Beginning in October Crown Odyssey by Orient Lines offers an innovative 24-day cruise tour spotlighting African cultures and landscapes. From Athens, Crown Odyssey crosses the Suez Canal, to visit Aqaba, Alexandria, and Djibouti. Vitals: Prices range from $5,995 to $13,950 U.S., including a Kenyan safari and a visit to Karen Blixen’s Out of Africa estate; airfare, taxes, and tips not included; 1,026 passengers; 800 333 7300 (U.S. and Canada).

Explore lesser-known ports of call that dot Africa’s western coast by boarding Crystal Symphony by Crystal Cruises. During the 22-day excursion to Lisbon, which departs from Cape Town this October, you’ll explore Walvis Bay, Bom Bom Island Resort, Lomé, Takoradi, Abidjan, Banjul. Vitals: Prices range from $4,995 to $33,790 U.S., including hotel stays and taxes; guided tours, airfare, and tips not included; 940 passengers; +1 310 785 9300 or 800 820 6663 (U.S. and Canada).

Caronia by Cunard Line departs from Cape Town this November for an 18-day trip to Southampton, England, with stops in Walvis Bay, Ascension Island, and Tenerife. Cunard is known for its homey experience that shuns glitzy extravagance such as the decorative glass elevators and flashy neon lights touted by newer ships. Vitals: Prices range from $3,980 to $15,860 U.S.; guided tours, airfare, taxes, and tips not included; 668 passengers; 800 728 6273 (U.S. and Canada).

*All prices, noted in U.S. dollars, are based on double occupancy. Prices for children are the same as those noted for adults, unless otherwise indicated. Contents accurate at press time.

—By Kaitlin Manry

Kaitlin Manry is a TRAVELER editorial assistant.

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